Amidst the hoopla with the late October announcement of the gigantic Christian music Winter Jam tour, area fans may have missed the addition of a local artist to the bill.
"I will be performing at the Van Andel Arena in my hometown," gushed Malcolm, a Grand Rapids-based music artist, to his 11,000-plus Facebook followers.
The 25 year-old hip-hop artist is officially part of Winter Jam, a cavalcade of Christian music artists which travels to 46 cities from January to April playing in major arenas. Along with top-selling artists such as David Crowder, Britt Nicole and Tenth Avenue North, Malcolm is part of the "pre-jam" opening act roster for the January 8 event, which has an admission price of $10 at-the-door.
His slot on the prestigious tour comes in tandem with his recent signing to a national record label – "4 AGAINST 5" (in Roman numerals, "IVAV"), a hip-hop imprint of industry giant Word Records.
His self-titled national debut releases early next year. The first single - "Hot Boy," with a beat which bounces off a keyboard riff - is already available, listen to the lyric video online.
"I use the phrase 'hot boy' to say I have a burning passion to glorify God in everything I do," he said. "God has given me the gift of music and I want to be on fire with it."
AN UNLIKELY COURSE
Malcolm was not born and raised in church, but was attracted to an urban, hip-hop culture. "I wasn't scared of the church," he offered. "But I looked at it as a stereotype – like, that's not a place for me."
He was a basketball player during his Wyoming Park High School days, at the same time dabbling in hip-hop music.
But his life changed during his freshman year at GR Community College. A friend invited him to a "hip-hop" church called The Urban Edge Fellowship on Grand Rapids' SW side.
"I fell in love with Jesus and gave my life to the Lord," he said. The church was "a welcoming and comfortable place where I could grow."
Wanting to serve his new fellowship, the young artist offered his hip-hop skills to the worship team.
Using a recording studio The Edge has for a youth development program, Malcolm honed his beats and recorded several original songs. He teamed with several other artists, but none more closely than Beacon Light (Brandon Clahassey) whom he joined on an indie label. Eventually he issued his own collection of tunes called "Monsters Ink."
MAKING THE SCENE
Meanwhile the young artist was in touch with a record label executive-producer who had discovered his music. Word Records was beginning a new hip-hop imprint, and Malcolm was invited to be one of its first artists.
Malcolm has already opened shows for Lecrae and other faith-based, hip-hop artists. He's performed at both the Big Ticket and Unity Christian music festivals and at local clubs such as Pyramid Scheme and Billy's Lounge. He's been highlighted by Rapzilla.com (a top Christian hip-hop website) and his Youtube videos have well over a hundred thousand views.
Several songs on the new album show promise and find him teamed with established artists.
"Never Let You Go" features vocals from former Group 1 Crew singer now soloist Blanca Callahan. The energetic "Party In The Hills" includes fellow hip-hopper Andy Mineo and singer-songwriter Hollyn.
"Faith is the foundation of my music, and is drawn off life experiences and things I'm going through," he said.
A recording contract and a major tour platform (last year Winter Jam drew more than 700,000 fans) are wonderful benchmarks, but have added some stress to the artist's life.
"It's easy to see the glamorous part of life from a Facebook post," he shared with fans. "But honestly these past few months have been the hardest times of my life! But I know there's light at the end of it all....'yal keep me in prayer! Fareal fareal!"
Winter Jam Tour, featuring David Crowder, Britt Nicole, Tenth Avenue North, Andy Mineo, Thousand Foot Krutch, Colton Dixon, NewSong, Sadie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" and speaker Tony Nolan; with a "Pre-Jam Party" including OBB, Sarah Reeves and Steven Malcolm.
6 p.m. Sun. Jan. 8, 2017 (Pre-Jam Party begins at 5 pm.)
Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St. Grand Rapids
Admission $10 at the door, with free-will offering during evening. Jam Nation passes with early entry and Q&A available in advance at www.jamtour.com
Promotional video at https://www.instagram.com/p/BMVCeOtgctV/
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